Collingwood have put themselves in the finals conversation after staving off Hawthorn in a heart-stopper to win their third game on the trot on Sunday.
The Pies now sit a game clear of the Western Bulldogs inside the AFL top eight with seven wins from their 12 starts, but have the lowest percentage of any team in the top 12.
That’s not worrying Sydney Swans champion Jude Bolton – no stranger to finals himself – as Craig McRae’s men have convinced him they can feature in September.
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“They’ve been able to show they can stand up in big games, they’ve got a really dynamic forward line,” Bolton said on 7AFL’s Al and Lingy show.
“They’ve got some real quality across the park, and I think there’s got to be that confidence that, ‘hang on, our best is good enough.’
“It’s consistency for the Pies; there are too many times where (we’re questioning) can we trust them, week in, week out?
“But I love the way Craig McRae’s just been able to give them that attacking style. I thought, at times, they really hurt Hawthorn early on turnover, because Hawthorn were being almost reckless going through the middle, it was actually giving away soft goals. Better sides aren’t going to give you those soft goals early.
“They’ve been super impressive.”
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury celebrates the Pies’ win over Hawthorn. Credit: Getty
Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling isn’t as bullish on the Pies, with Richmond and the Western Bulldogs looming at their heels, but concedes they’ve already exceeded his expectations.
“I wouldn’t put my house on them making the eight, but they’re right in there with a big, big chance,” he said.
“No matter what, their pressure is high, so they’re giving themselves a chance. They’ve got a good enough blend of experience … combined with some young, enthusiasm and excitement; Ollie Henry kicked a clutch goal and has been terrific since he’s come back in, (Jack) Ginnivan is driving opposition fans completely crazy (but) Pies fans love him, and so they should.
“There’s something there.”
The Pies have winnable games between rounds 15 and 20 against bottom 10 teams GWS, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon and Port Adelaide, but then finish the season off with tough fixtures against contenders Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton.
Bolton argues that could be the perfect preparation for Collingwood heading into the business end of the campaign.
“I like the tough run into the finals,” he said.
“That makes you or breaks you, but also, if you get through that period, you know you’re ready. You’ve come up against good quality opposition, you haven’t just fallen into the finals.
“I’m excited with where they’re coming along, Collingwood.”
Even if a finals berth is beyond the Pies this year, Ling believes they’ve set themselves up beautifully for next season.
“If they’ve got to win six out of 10 (games) it might be just beyond them,” he said.
“But what a stepping stone for next year as they continue to build those young players up.
“Most of their experienced players are still in a good window of their prime. This was probably the year where they were really going to just battle around at the bottom of the ladder and get some games into young players – (but) this is a much better stepping stone and launching pad than I expected.
“Who knows? They might even get that finals experience.”
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Source by 7news.com.au